The decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to initiate military attacks in Ukraine has raised the stakes in the continuing conflict between Russia and the West. The move comes after months of speculation over Russia’s intentions and actions, with Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s Russian and Belarusian borders.
Since June of last year, when US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin began a bilateral meeting in Geneva, the two nations have been debating how to mend their relations and make them more stable and predictable. Apart from the presidents, the debate included their foreign ministers, national security advisers, commanders of the military forces, heads of intelligence services, and senior foreign ministry employees. Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, the causes covered have included a variety of bilateral and global concerns that have plagued their relationship. The focus was on the European theatre, where simmering tensions in eastern Ukraine and NATO’s strategic posture exacerbated the enmity between Russia and the US-led alliance.
President Biden’s goal in pursuing a stable, predictable relationship with Russia was to free the US from politically and financially costly participation in wars and tensions in Europe and West Asia, allowing it to focus on internal issues and China, its main strategic enemy. This effort was hailed by Russia as a chance to reengage politically and economically with the United States and Europe. It would raise Russia’s international prestige and encourage much-needed technology and investment inflows.
President Putin, on the other hand, specified that the interaction be on equal footing. Russia desired a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis, as well as assurances that NATO would not expand further into Ukraine. It also desired a mutual agreement to limit the number and range of advanced weapons systems deployed in NATO countries on Russia’s periphery, with reciprocal obligations on Russia’s part. While the second problem might have been settled with little diplomatic wrangling, and the third issue had a decent meeting ground, the first proved difficult to resolve to the mutual satisfaction of Russia, Ukraine, and other European partners.
According to current evidence, this is what prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the situation by ordering direct military operations in Ukraine. His declared goal is to eliminate security risks to Russia emanating from Ukrainian territory, including both western-supplied military sites and right-wing anti-Russian “neo-Nazis.” The military intervention by Russia has been widely condemned.
India would have to carefully examine its response and measures. During the long-running episode of Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border, India took a balanced stance in the UN Security Council and in official statements, essentially urging all parties to use diplomacy and to address the legitimate security concerns of all stakeholders in the interests of long-term peace and stability. While this may appear to be nothing more than clichés, it does capture the spirit of what all parties were expressing.